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USDA Forest Service,
Lands and Realty Staff

1400 Independence Ave., SW
Mailstop 1124
Washington, DC 20250-1124
Phone: (202) 205-1248

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LWCF Purchases–About the Fund


The Land and Water Conservation Fund
Preserving the Best of the American Outdoors

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act gives the authorization to provide up to $900 million every year to purchase lands and waters for your benefit:

  For recreation.
  For scenic landscapes.
  For wildlife habitat.
  For clean water.
  For your quality of life.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund

Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides monies to federal, state and local governments to acquire land, water and conservation easements on land and water for the benefit of all Americans. From majestic forests and snow-capped mountains, to wild rivers and lush grasslands, these acquisitions become part of our national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and other public areas.

Lands are purchased from willing sellers at fair-market value or through partial or outright donations of property. Landowners can also sell or donate easements on their property that restrict commercial development while keeping the land in private ownership.

Each year, four federal agencies—the USDA Forest Service, USDI's, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management—identify important properties available for purchase. Congress appropriates up to $900 million each year for LWCF projects.The funding for these purchases comes primarily from revenues received from offshore oil and gas drilling.

Seven Million Acres and Counting
Over 7 million acres have been purchased with $9 billion in LWCF appropriations. One-third of these purchases have been made by states and communities. The Forest Service works in partnership with communities to protect nationally designated areas including:
  • wild and scenic rivers
  • wilderness areas
  • scenic areas
  • recreation areas
  • scenic trails
Your National Forests

The National Forests system encompasses more than 190 million acres of public land, or about 25% of all forests in the country. Its 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands are located in 44 states and Puerto Rico, putting a national forest well within a day's drive of most Americans.

Your national forests include 423 wilderness areas in 38 states, totaling over 35,000,000 acres. In addition, 102 wild and scenic rivers, 23 national recreation areas and 6 national scenic areas have been designated for public enjoyment and resource conservation.

The job of the Forest Service is to help people share and enjoy their national forests and grasslands, while conserving the environment for generations to come. In addition, the Forest Service assists rural communities to improve natural resource conditions, undertakes research to find better ways to protect and manage our public lands, and formulates policy for the protection and management of the world's forests.


Improving Your Quality of Life
Additions to the National Forest System help maintain the quality of life that comes from protected open space. Most of the funding for these additions comes from the LWCF. Since its creation, the LWCF has financed the purchase of more than 1.5 million acres of land located within or adjacent to existing national forests and grasslands. The LWCF helps the Forest Service acquire public land on your behalf to:
  • Expand outdoor recreational opportunities
    The National Forest System is the largest provider of sites for outdoor recreation in this country. Visitors of all ages and abilities come to hike, ski, hunt, fish, canoe, mountain bike, rock climb, snowmobile, camp, horseback ride, windsurf and enjoy a host of other activities. Many of our national forests are located within an hour's drive of our largest urban areas—from Denver and Boston, to Atlanta and Los Angeles—and serve as the primary source of open space and outdoor recreational opportunities for millions of local residents.
  • Protect clean water supplies
    Forests, wetlands and other undeveloped lands naturally filter and clean water flowing into our aquifers, reservoirs, streams and rivers. The National Forest System encompasses the headwaters of a significant number of water sources across America, from the Columbia River in the west to the Susquehanna River in the east.
  • Preserve wildlife habitat
    Virtually every LWCF purchase benefits wildlife. In many cases, the primary reason for purchasing a property is to preserve habitat for wildlife, including threatened or endangered species.
  • Protect cultural and historic treasures
    Our country's history and identity are tied to the land. From fossil beds and Civil War battlefields, to remnants of ancient civilizations and historic mining districts, cultural and historic sites help Americans experience and learn from the societies, events and natural processes that shape history.
  • Benefit local economies
    Communities benefit economically from visitors who fish, hike, ski, hunt or enjoy other outdoor activities. Many communities rely on traditional natural resource-based industries, and the Forest Service works with these local communities to make sure our nation's forests and grasslands sustain their economic and ecological value.
How You Can Help
You can make a difference in preserving America's great outdoors. Individuals, organizations, businesses and local governments frequently work with the Forest Service to acquire important lands. That help takes many forms, including:
  • Identifying lands available for purchase
  • Raising public interest in a property's acquisition
  • Making a partial or outright donation of land identified for purchase
  • Contacting or meeting with your Congressional delegation to discuss the conservation value of specific properties
  • Buying and holding key tracts until public funds are available
  • Contributing funds to help purchase a property being acquired
  • Forming partnerships with other organizations and the Forest Service for purchases
  • Writing letters to the editor and articles for newspapers or magazines in support of specific acquisitions

To offer your help or to get more information about the Forest Service and the LWCF, contact the regional office nearest you.

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